Women in Business Q&A: Tooba Marwat, Owner, Signarama

04/14/2015 07:13 am ET | Updated Jun 14, 2015

Tooba Marwat is the owner of Signarama in Plano, Texas and is the mother of three boys. She plans on utilizing all the skills she has learned while raising her family and channeling them into her new business. One of her highest priorities is creating jobs for Plano residents.

How has your life experiences made you the leader you are today?
I came to the US from Pakistan when I was 20. I came from a well-to-do family of lawyers in Pakistan. My husband, Saleem Marwat, is an engineer at a high-tech firm, Texas Instruments. I was a computer science major in college but couldn't finish my degree once I had children. I always had the ambition to have a professional career. Now that all my kids are going to school, my husband and I decided that this was the right time to own a business. We purchased an existing franchise, Signarama, in Plano.

How has your previous employment/roles aided your position at Signarama?
It may not appear to be an easy transition from a full-time Mom to a full-time franchisee and small business owner. Believe it or not, nurturing and taking care of a family gets you ready to face tough challenges in life. So far, I've found a lot in common with running a business and running a house with 3 kids. It has the same challenges such as multi-tasking, following a schedule, taking care of people (employees or kids), etc.

What have been the highlights and challenges during your time at Signarama?
The main challenge has been to balance the business revenue growth with headcount increase. I see a great potential in the Plano market but I don't want to increase headcount uncontrollably causing cash flow problems for me in the short term.

What advice can you offer to women who want to own a franchise?
Simply put, 'Just Do It'. My husband, Saleem, and I talked about business ownership for a long time, but at the end of day, we had to put the pen to paper and sign a deal. We haven't looked back.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
To be honest, it's not easy. I decided to purchase a franchise that has normal business hours, Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 5 PM. I've made it clear that my kids' education is a top priority. With help from my husband, I've been able to manage a good work/life balance.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The biggest issue for women is balancing work/life balance. Business ownership is a full-time commitment and so is raising a family. I've to be disciplined with my time in order to fulfill both responsibilities well.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
My mentor is my husband, Saleem, who has 17 years of corporate experience and encouraged me all the way that I could do it. Roger Robinson of Signarama-Dallas has been a great mentor in this business. I spent a week at his store to see how a successful franchise is run.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I greatly admire Benazir Bhutto from Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto was twice elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan and later assassinated by the Taliban. Although I didn't agree with the politics of Benazir Bhutto, I admire her tenacity and leadership to rise to the top in a country where women have few rights.

What do you want Signarama-Plano to accomplish in the next year?
My goal is to double the revenue of Signarama-Plano in the next year while adding two new employees to the team.